CHATHAM–The Town Board adopted a $3.4-million budget for 2017 at the monthly meeting last week. In addition to government operations the final budget lists support for the five fire companies that serve the town and for the North Chatham Library.
Among those attending the November 17 meeting was Chatham Village Mayor Tom Curran, who said that in the highway fund paid for by all town residents–including village residents–there is funding for snow removal and highway equipment. But the town does not plow snow or do work for the village. “I don’t think the village should be paying for town machinery,” he told the Town Board.
The mayor also said that the snow removal budget listed in the highway fund, which all residents pay, was rising by $33,000 even though village does not benefit from that service. And he asked that the town inform the village in the future of increases that affect village taxpayers.
Town Councilman Bob Balcom responded, telling the mayor, “We all live in the town.” He said that the Town Board had reviewed past budgets and found that the village was paying nothing for the town highway department and that to help balance the town’s budget this year village residents would see an increase in their taxes amounting to less than $8 for a property with an average assessment. He also said that the increase would be a “one-time hit this year.”
Mayor Curran, stressing that the village maintains its own roads, said of the town budget, “I’m just not happy about it.”
The newly approved budget also includes Enhanced Enforcement Patrol for $30,000 paid to the County Sheriff’s Office for a deputy assigned to monitor speeding and other traffic violations on town roads. Councilman Henry Swartz, who voted to approve the budget, said he still had reservations and believed the board could have put the $30,000 to better use.
Board members John Wapner and Landra Haber said that they supported the Enhanced Enforcement Patrol to deal with speeding in the town.
Mr. Balcom said he was proud of the how the 2017 budget was prepared. He thanked the Citizens Finance and Planning Committee and budget consultant Michael Richardson, who volunteered their time.
He said that the budget was lower than what was required to comply with the state tax levy cap and he responded to concerns raised by resident Mike Blasl about the salaries of town board members. Mr. Blasl said in a survey of 15 of the 18 towns in the county, Chatham has the highest paid board members. Mr. Balcom asked that that information be given to the Citizens Finance and Planning Committee.
“I can guarantee that this administration will consider any recommendation from the [committee] next year and will take the appropriate actions,” Mr. Balcom said. In a written statement he read at the meeting, he said that to change board members’ salaries would require a resolution from the board that voters would have to approve as a referendum at a general election.
For 2017 the board cut the salaries for members of the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals and will, over two years, reduce the number of members on the ZBA from seven to five. The town assessor and a town hall maintenance worker also took pay cuts in the 2017 budget.
Supervisor Maria Lull also read a statement about the budget, thanking all of the board members for their hard work on using “a reality-based model” when budgeting. She talked about having a large deficit in the general fund when the board started the process and she said that they eliminated the co-mingling of funds and borrowed to pay for major highway equipment.
This budget breaks out the $65,000 for the North Chatham Library for the first time, although as members of the audience noted at the November 17 meeting that the library has received funds under a voter-approved referendum for over a decade.
The board will hold a public hearing November 28 at 6 p.m. to pass a local law “providing for a separate listing of library tax levies on real property tax bills.”
“Nothing has changed in how much you pay for the North Chatham Library,” said Library Board member Randi Walker at the town meeting.
Also at the meeting:
• Town Clerk Beth Anne Rippel announced the county’s KISS program, which shreds documents for free for seniors, will be running at Town Hall from December 5 to 16. Seniors can bring their documents for shredding to Town Hall on Route 295
• Ms. Rippel also reported to the board that regular deer and bear hunting seasons have started and people can purchase hunting licenses from the town
• Councilwoman Haber said that there “have been recent incidents of harassment in our town and that some of our residents are not feeling safe.” She said that as a community and individuals, people must say No to acts of hate and discrimination. Other board members echoed her concerns. Mr. Swartz asked whether the incidents had been reported to the police and Ms. Haber said that they had been.
“This is not acceptable in our community,” Mr. Balcom said. He said he had also heard of harassment.
The next town board meeting will be the special meeting on November 28 at 6 p.m. The next regular meeting will be Thursday, December 15 at 7 p.m.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email